Lots of change happening in the Portola, sometimes hard to keep up. I did however get chance to go to a meeting last week hosted by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), about a new project taking place for daylighting the Upper Yosemite Creek. The meeting was packed with fellow neighbors and SFPUC said the turn out was very good by their own standards. So what was the meeting all about?
Essentially there used to be a creek which ran from parts of McLaren park all the way down into the bay. As the city became more developed, streets and homes were built over large sections of where the creek used to run and the water now mostly flows into the combined sewer system. Other developments in the area, like the building of the BART system, ended up with McLaren Park being the dumping group for a lot of waste earth and material, this significantly changed the way the water would be displaced from the park down into the now residential parts of the city.
Problems then arise when excess water during our rainy months doesn’t really flow well. It ends up flooding certain roads, eroding parts of the park and ultimately overloads the sewer system, which was designed over 100 years ago. The system currently has over 1,000 miles of pipes, treats 80 million gallons of water on a non-rainy day which increases to a shocking 575 million when it pours! So it simply needs an upgrade. We need a San Francisco Sewer System 2.0.
So this project is one of a few across the city which will collect the excess storm water and find ways to “integrate” the water before it enters the combined sewer system. How can the water be better managed, instead of just dumping it all into a 100 year old network of pipes? Now this being 2013, we don’t just slap a bunch of concrete and pipes all over the place. The whole project is part of a green infrastructure initiative which will take advantage of the natural processes of soils and plants in order to slow down, clean and decrease the total amount of water that goes into the aging system.
Creek daylighting is the process of uncovering and restoring creeks or streams that were previously buried in underground pipes and culverts or otherwise removed from view. The city has several historical creeks and Yosemite Creek is one of them.
As we toured along, there were two important and notable moments where everyone’s interest peaked significantly. The first was when we walked alongside the southern edge of the University Mound Reservoir. The proposal is to move the fence back some feet and run the creek under the road at the stop sign and then surface on the other side, winding its way down the side of the basin. They are proposing to turn this area into a publicly accessible space. Maybe with seating and educational areas about the creek itself.
But more interest was expressed by all at the bottom of the street where the tour stopped, right opposite the old Rose Nursery that is currently up for sale. At this point, the SFPUC project manager Raphael Garcia, announced it is where the currently funded project would stop. But they would love to plan for it to go further and one day connect to the bay. The collected audience of neighbors all asked the obvious question. Would SFPUC buy part of the land that is currently for sale and turn it into a park of the creek?
The answer? If that’s what the public wants, then they can create a proposal for approval and see if they can negotiate a deal to buy and develop the land. No guarantees, no promises. But if there was strong support from the neighborhood, they would take that message to their board. This was met with a round of applause from the tour group. There has been a lot of interest in that land over the coming years. It would be a wonderful idea if SFPUC could collaborate with say an urban farming initiative such as the one mentioned in this article. However, the current cost of the land would easily dig deep into the current project budget. When those gathered on the tour asked Raphael if more funds are available, he responded “the funds I have, are the funds I have” and went onto say that access to more money is really a political issue well out of his hands.
The Planet later spoke with Raphael and he told us, “We really welcome public input in this process, and want to ensure this project reflects the values of the neighborhood.” He went on to describe that if this was successful, it would be the first daylighting project of it’s kind by San Francisco city. It could pave the way for similar projects to restore old creeks and relieve the stress on the current sewer system.
So Portolans, what do you think? Do you live on Wayland and want to ensure your parking or sidewalks are not limited by the project? Do you care about how the creek would wind it’s way around the current soccer and baseball parks at the corner of Wayland and University. Fortunately, you can easily provide your feedback. Both at upcoming meetings and also via the online survey. Visit www.yosemite.metroquest.com to learn more and give them your thoughts. SFPUC is listening and now is the time to have an influence on this great project which should have a positive impact on the beauty of our neighborhood.
There will be another out reach meeting in the future and the Planet will inform you as soon as we know.